Hernandez signed with the Royals from Venezuela for just $15,000. He showed flashes of his raw stuff in the Appy League last summer, and if you take away the last three outings of his season, the (then) 20-year-old struck out nearly 25 percent of batters faced while holding opponents to a .227 BAA. His late-August swoon didn’t concern scouts, in part because 2017 was his first professional season. Now 21 years old, the glimpses of a power fastball/curveball combo make him an interesting arm to watch in the low-minors this year.
Hernandez now touches 97-to-98 mph early in starts before falling off to the 92-to-94 range later in outings. When he’s working at the higher end of the velo band, his fastball is heavier and bores in to the arm side—though he flattened out and caught much more plate as his pitch count increased in my view. A firm curveball at 79-to-81 mph shows sharp break and swing-and-miss action at its best, and while his 84-to-88 mph changeup was less consistent than the curve, he occasionally showed some arm-side fade on the pitch. There is effort in his delivery that detracts from both his control and in-zone fastball command. Ironing out his mechanics and throwing more strikes are key development points moving forward.
There is risk in Hernandez’ present rawness and proximity to the big leagues. This profile often winds up in the bullpen, though his physical frame and good stuff will give him every chance to develop in the rotation. Ticketed for Class A Lexington, Hernandez is an under-the-radar prospect with breakout potential.